Bodies 'stacked on top of each other' due to grave shortgage

Graves: More bodies put in one plot under Government plans
Graves: More bodies put in one plot under Government plans

Bodies could be stacked on top of each other due to a shortage of graves under plans agreed by church officials.

The plan was suggested among wider efforts by the Scottish Government to modernise rules on death certification, burial and cremation.

The Church of Scotland supports the "lift and deepen" scheme which would allow old remains to be dug up, placed in a small container then re-buried at the maximum depth to allow future burials in the same plot.

However, a Jewish group raised "serious concerns" about the plan while a Muslim group said it should be allowed "only if necessary".

The Kirk's response to the official consultation stated: "This appears to be a quite reasonable and respectful process of making the ground available for future burials while seeking to accord appropriate dignity to those who have been interred previously."

It also offered support for the re-use of lairs older than 75 years, with "appropriate safeguards".

The responses were among 102 received from clinical healthcare staff, local authorities, faith groups, the funeral industry, government officials and academics.

Scottish Government officials have not yet analysed opinion on the re-use of graves, focussing first on death certification.
This includes the introduction of a small number of medical investigators to scrutinise death certification and the replacement of the current cremation fee of about £142 with a more "modest" fee.

Proposals put forward would also allow trained clinical staff, including nurses and paramedics, to verify that a person has died.

The suggestion that graves could be re-used was opposed by the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities, whose faith regards the human body as sacrosanct before and after death.

Its submission added: "We have serious concerns with the proposals to re-use graves, particularly with the proposals that local authorities should be able to designate plots for re-use without explicit permission."

The group said there is an "implied suggestion" in the consultation that cemeteries should be more concerned with aesthetics than with respect for the dead.

A response from the Muslim Council of Scotland said burial is the only option, adding that the re-use of graves is acceptable "only if necessary".

The Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management said re-use of old, abandoned lairs is the "only means" of ensuring the long-term security of cemeteries and burial grounds.

Public Health Minister Shona Robison said: "This consultation relates to matters that affect every one of us and it is important the Scottish public have had a chance to voice their opinions."

She said the medical investigator model would improve public confidence and that changes to fees would be lower than that currently paid by two-thirds of families.

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